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Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Where they ranked as recruits: Offense

By Josh Moyer

Allen Robinson
Allen Robinson's production shows that recruiting grades are just projections and it's not just the elite recruits who become elite players.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- With signing day just a day away, all the focus will be on the four-star talent and the big-name players. But it's not always the elite recruits who contribute most.

After all, where did Penn State's current starters rank when they were recruits?

NittanyNation takes a look at returning offensive starters -- and other key players -- to see just how much attention was paid to them back on their respective signing days. Some might surprise you:

RB Zach Zwinak, Grade: 77, three stars: He was ranked as the No. 1 fullback in the country, but he told anyone who would listen that he belonged at running back. No one's arguing with him after he rushed for 1,000 yards last season. He'll be a big part of the offense again this season, and he received the same scouting grade as Curtis Dukes, a recruiting flop who left the team. Thirty-seven tailbacks were graded higher in his class.

WR Allen Robinson, Grade: 72, two stars: He didn't receive any other major offers (unless you count Minnesota), and he basically entered last season as the lowest-rated wideout from a recruiting standpoint. Clearly, the experts and those other colleges were wrong. He set the PSU record in receptions (77) and is arguably the top wideout in the Big Ten. We rated him as Penn State's biggest recruiting sleeper since 2006. Two hundred wideouts were ranked higher than him in the 2011 class. Yeah, 200.

WR Brandon Moseby-Felder, Grade: Unrated: He was a low-profile recruit and came from the same class as Shawney Kersey (Grade: 78) and Christian Kuntz (Grade: 76). Still, he contributed more than both of them. Kersey left the team after Week 2, and Kuntz had very limited playing time. Moseby-Felder's hands were inconsistent at times last season, but he became the No. 2 wideout behind A-Rob.

TE Kyle Carter, Grade: 76, three stars: ESPN thought more highly of Carter than most services, but even it downplayed the tight end's ability. Carter was ranked as the No. 58 tight end in the 2011 class. If that class was re-ranked today, he'd easily be in the top five among tight ends. He earned Mackey Award consideration last season and probably should have been the Big Ten's tight end of the year.

OT Donovan Smith, Grade: 79, four stars: Smith might already be the top player on the line, and his recruiting grade is among the highest among PSU starters. He already flashed NFL ability in spite of a lingering injury. He was the No. 20 OT in his class.

OG John Urschel, Grade: Unrated: Urschel is another no-name recruit who panned out nicely for Penn State. ESPN didn't even rank him, but he earned a spot on the All-Big Ten team this past season. If he was ranked again, he'd be either a high-level three-star player or low-level four-star prospect.

OG Miles Dieffenbach, Grade: 81, four stars: He was the No. 118 recruit (and No. 1 center) in the country. He's fallen short of expectations, obviously, but he's still a solid starter. He could slide over to center this season or continue playing guard. Looking back, three stars might have been a better fit.

Other key players: QB Steven Bench, Grade: 76, three stars; WR Eugene Lewis, Grade: 80, four stars; WR Trevor Williams, Grade: 74, two stars; TE Jesse James, Grade: 78, three stars; C Ty Howle, Grade: 79, three stars; OT Adam Gress, Grade: 76, three stars; OG Angelo Mangiro, Grade: 81, four stars (No. 54 in ESPN 150), RB Bill Belton, Grade: 80, four stars (No. 132 in ESPN 150).